ON THE PITCH

Soccer Recap: Dynamo outmuscle Zlatan’s LA Galaxy, El Clasico ends in 2-2 draw

El Campo, TX native Memo Rodriguez (right) scored in the 90th minute to give Houston Dynamo a 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy. Houston Dynamo

With 37 days left until the 2018 FIFA World Cup, European club action inches closer to the end of the season. On this side of the pond, the action begins to heat up in Major League Soccer during the regular season and in playoff action in Liga MX.

Here is the week that was in soccer:

UEFA Champions League

The final is set for the 2017/18 edition of the UEFA Champions League.

Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid - the winningest club in the history of the competition with 12 titles - return to the final looking for their third consecutive Champions League trophy. In the knockout stage of this tournament, Madrid has eliminated the league leaders in France (PSG), Italy (Juventus) and now Germany (Bayern Munich). Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring in the second leg - as he did in the first leg the previous week - to give the Bavarians hope. A double by Real forward Karim Benzema, one goal being a major gaffe by the goalkeeper, was exactly what Los Blancos needed to see out a result and win the series. James Rodriguez - a Madrid player on loan to Bayern - scored the tying goal for the Germans in the 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu.

In the other series, Liverpool were able to see out the second leg in Rome to advance to their first Champions League final since 2007. Needing at least three goals, Roma delivered the offense they needed but it’s the two goals allowed on defense that see them eliminated.

Final: Saturday, May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine

UEFA Europa League

Atletico Madrid and Marseille booked their spots in the Europa League final after winning their semifinal series. The Madrid club eliminated Arsenal to deny them an opportunity at the coveted Champions League spot. Atleti carried their 1-1 first leg draw to a 1-0 win in the second leg. The other tie was more wide open as extra time was needed after teams drew 2-2 over 180 minutes. Rolando’s goal in the 116th minute of the second leg gave Marseille the score they needed to reach the final in Lyon.

Final: Wednesday, May 16 in Lyon, France

Premier League

Former Houston Dynamo Geoff Cameron may have to find a new club next season as Stoke City become the first Premier League side to be relegated this season. A 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace was the nail in the coffin to a forgettable season for the Potters. West Bromwich Albion, on the other hand, bought themselves some time as they stave off relegation - for the moment - with a 1-nil upset over Tottenham. Swansea City is third from the bottom after a 1-nil loss to Bournemouth while Southampton barely squeaks out of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw at Everton.

At the top of the table, it is confirmed that the top seven have secured European action next season. What is yet to be confirmed Burnley (#7) and Arsenal (#6) will play in the Europa League while Liverpool (#3), Tottenham (#4) and Chelsea (#5) continue to fight it out for the two remaining Champions League spots. Should Liverpool win the Champions League final, all three sides would see Champions League action next season but that won’t be known after the Premier League season has concluded. In the meantime, Chelsea picked up three points with a 1-0 win over Liverpool.

Top 5: Manchester City* (94), Manchester United (77), Liverpool (72), Tottenham (71), Chelsea (69)

La Liga

While this may have been the Clasico with the lowest stakes in recent memory - being that Barcelona have clinched the league title - it still delivered the chipiness and rugged nature of the biggest rivalry in soccer. Barça played the second half with 10-men as Sergi Roberto was red carded in first half stoppage time. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi traded goals with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to deliver a 2-2 affair, keeping Barcelona undefeated with three matches left to play.

The top four sides have clinched Champions League action next season with Real Betis, the current fifth place team, securing European competition as well. Betis’ goal is to stave off sixth place Villareal (two points behind) to finish in fifth and hope for a Real Madrid win in the Champions League final to assure them a spot in Europe’s premier club competition. Betis did themselves no favors by losing 2-0 at Bilbao. Villareal won 1-0 over Valencia to give themselves a shot at the Champions in case of a Madrid win in the final.

Top 5: FC Barcelona* (87), Atletico Madrid (75), Real Madrid (72), Valencia (67), Real Betis (59)

Bundesliga

Hamburg is in trouble as a 3-0 loss to Eintracht locks them in to the relegation zone. While not officially relegated, Hamburg will at best have to participate in the relegation playoffs. Wolfsburg and Freiburg, the next two teams from the bottom to the top, also lost this weekend. After being eliminated from the Champions League, Bayern Munich went back to winning in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win over last place Cologne. Dortmund and Hoffenheim, the third and fourth placed teams in the table, lost while Bayer Leverkusen fought to a scoreless draw with Werder Bremen. The top two have secured Champions League next season while Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bayer fight for the remaining two UCL spots.

Top 5: FC Bayern Munich* (84), Schalke 04 (60), Dortmund (55), Hoffenheim (52), Bayer Leverkusen (52)

Serie A

Juventus won 3-1 over Bologna on Saturday to set themselves up for another Serie A title with a Napoli loss on Sunday. Napoli were able to avoid that heartbreak with a 2-2 draw against Torino. Being that a league title may be inevitable, Juventus must set the league aside for a moment as they face A.C. Milan in the cup final on Wednesday. This could mean that Juve may have clinched the double by the end of the week as they only need one point in league play next weekend.

Hellas Verona was the second team confirmed to be relegated to Serie B after a 4-1 loss at Milan. Inter secured at least a Europa League spot for next season with a 4-0 win at Udinese as they continue to push for the Champions League.

Top 5: Juventus (91), Napoli (85), Roma (73), Lazio (71), Inter Milan (69)

Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain are just going through the motions, having already clinched the league and looking towards the cup final on Tuesday, as they draw 2-2 at 13th place Amiens SC. Lyon picked up a 3-0 win over Troyes, Monaco won 2-0 at Caen and Europa League finalist Marseille picked up three points in a 2-1 win over Nice. Rennes picked up a big win, 2-1 over Strasbourg, to jump back into fifth place.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain* (92), Lyon (75), Monaco (74), Marseille (73), Rennes (54)

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Major League Soccer

Week 10 in MLS meant a trip to the top of the table for the surging Atlanta United as they picked up a 2-1 win at the Chicago Fire. NYCFC dropped to second in the East after a humiliating 4-0 loss in the Hudson River Derby, the rivalry match between the two New York area clubs. Orlando City picked up a franchise-record sixth straight win after a 3-1 dismantling of Real Salt Lake while the Crew and Revolution earned a draw and loss respectively.

In the West, Kansas City and LAFC remain at the the top with home results. The Houston Dynamo picked up another home win in front of a sold out BBVA Compass Stadium crowd of 22,320. Homegrown midfielder Memo Rodriguez scored in the 90th minute to deliver the 3-2 win over a star-studded LA Galaxy side that featured Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mexico national team players Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos. The Dynamo travel to Vancouver for a Friday showdown with the Whitecaps team that will be looking to rebound from a 1-0 loss at Minnesota.

East Top 6: Atlanta United (22), NYCFC (20), Orlando City (19), NY Red Bulls (15), Columbus Crew SC (15), New England Revolution (14)

West Top 6: Sporting KC (20), LAFC (16), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (13), FC Dallas (13), Minnesota United FC (12), Houston Dynamo (11)

Liga MX

The field of eight was cut down to four after home-and-home series in the Liga MX quarterfinals. Last year’s finalists Tigres and Monterrey were both eliminated, meaning the final will also present the two other teams that will qualify to the CONCACAF Champions League. Club America dismantled Mexico City rival Pumas, 4-1 at their place and then 2-1 at home. Tijuana and Monterrey tied 1-1 in the first leg before the ‘Xolos’ delivered a 2-1 win on the road. Tigres earned a 2-0 home win over Santos but suffered the opposite faith in the second leg. The defending champions were eliminated on the 2-2 aggregate due to the tiebreaker that favors the higher seeded team to advance. The same tiebreaker came into play in the Toluca-Monarcas series as that tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Semifinal matchups: (1) Toluca vs. (6) Tijuana, (2) Club America vs. (4) Santos Laguna

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National Women’s Soccer League

This week in the NWSL there was a shift with the top four spots in the standings - the qualifying spots for the playoffs. North Carolina remained at the top with a 1-1 draw on Sunday against Chicago. Seattle Reign moved to second with a 3-2 win at rival Portland Thorns. The Utah Royals picked up their first win in a 2-0 home win over the Washington Spirit while the Houston Dash also picked up their first win - and first under Head Coach Vera Pauw - with a 3-2 win at Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.

Top 4: North Carolina Courage (17), Seattle Reign (10),  Chicago Red Stars (10), Portland Thorns (8)

Liga MX Femenil

The first year of top women’s soccer league in Mexico ended in a historic final between Monterrey clubs Tigres and Rayadas. As it happened last December between their male counterparts, Tigres was victorious over their crosstown rivals by lifting the cup at their stadium. The two leg final was also historic because the second leg set a worldwide attendance record of 51,211 for a women’s club match. Tigres won the first leg, 2-0 at home, and finished 4-2 on aggregate after the 2-2 draw in the second leg.

Upcoming matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, May 8:

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Swansea vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

2 p.m. - [Coupe de France final] Les Herbiers vs. Paris Saint-Germain (beIN Sports)

Wednesday, May 9:

1 p.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Huddersfield (NBC Sports)

2 p.m. - [Coppa Italia final] Juventus vs. A.C. Milan (GolTV)

3 p.m. - [La Liga] Sevilla vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

6:30 p.m. - [MLS] Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS1)

7 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. Portland Thorns (go90/NWSLsoccer.com)

Thursday, May 10:

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

7:30 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Santos Laguna vs. Club America (Univision Deportes)

9:30 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Tijuana vs. Toluca (Univision Deportes)

Friday, May 11:

9:30 p.m. - [MLS] Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE 57)

Saturday, May 12:

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Celta (beIN Sports)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy (Univision/Twitter)

7 p.m. - [NWSL] Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash (go90/NWSLsoccer.com)

Sunday, May 13:

9 a.m. - [Premier League] All Premier League matches of the final day of the season will air simultaneously across the NBC family of networks (NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, Telemundo, Universo, USA, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, SyFy, Oxygen, Olympic Channel)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Juventus (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports Español)

12 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Toluca vs. Tijuana (Univision Deportes)

3 p.m. - [MLS] Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC (ESPN)

5 p.m. - [MLS] Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United (FS1)

7 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Club America vs. Santos Laguna (Univision Deportes)

7:30 p.m. - [MLS] LAFC vs. New York City FC (FS1)

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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